Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Come On/Let's Go: Period 2

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Period 2 (Weller Show #2)

It's hard to catch lightning in a bottle twice and tonight's show was no exception. I went into period 2 knowing that it was going to be difficult to duplicate the events of the previous evening. Something special went down last night probably never to be captured again.

I approached Zepp's doors at 4 P.M. for a 5 P.M. gig and I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people lining up to get into a 5 P.M. Saturday evening gig. Outside of the venue, I met some cats that attended last night's show and I was formally introduced to Hiro, Herogumi, and Mikio; acquaintances of Christine. Through these acquaintances, Christine was able to meet and hang out with Steve Cradock at his hotel bar last night and she bumped into him and Paul Weller the morning of the show. Hiro is in the fashion industry and he is good friends with Paul. He and Paul have known one another for years. He is also the cat I saw when I first got to the venue last night who seemed to have a svengali effect when we were all trying to see Paul and the band prior to the show.

My ticket number afforded me the opportunity to enter Zepp fairly early and I got a spot close to where I was last evening. My spot last night was better, but my new location provided me room to spread out. It took awhile for the venue to get filled. Next to me was a lone quiet fan, but 10 minutes prior to showtime, our tranquility was interrupted by a group of 4 gaijin (foreigners; 2 men and 2 women). The minute I saw them I knew they were going to stand next to me because I my spot was good and there was room around me. They proceeded to take a spot in front of me. 3 of the 4 people sounded British and the other person appeared to be Japanese. I knew they were going to be a nuisance because they were a little loud, conspicuous, and unlike everyone else. I was thinking to myself, “These people are so obnoxious, but at least they're not American. 8-)” The main cement head in the group was a guy named Mark. He did give me props for my Weller Heavy Soul t-shirt and that was the only redeeming quality he had, at least on this evening. The Japanese guy next to me had a great vantage point of the stage, but I guessed he sensed these people were going to be trouble and right before showtime he moved. I thought to myself, “Good call. I may be doing the same thing soon.” I decided to give these people the benefit of the doubt, hoping they would not be obnoxious when the show began. Then, about 2 minutes prior to showtime, a group of friends of the “Gang of 4” appeared. They were a posse of 6 and they stood directly behind me. They didn't seem to be that obnoxious, actually they were pretty quiet and low key, but they were affiliated with the “Gang of 4” and I thought to myself, “This can't be a good sign.” I looked up, saw Christine a section in front of me and we waved. I thought about moving next to her, but I wanted us both to witness Weller and the show separately. Selfishly, I didn't want to share this show or any of the three I was going to see with anyone. I didn't want to converse with anyone I just wanted to be in the moment. I wanted to solely concentrate on the band and their music.

Like last night, the crowd was sedate prior to the show beginning, but a little bit more into the pre show tunes being spun over the PA system. Again, an announcement was made in Japanese a couple of minutes before showtime the crowd got excited, the house lights dimmed, and then Weller and the boys took the stage. They began with the energetic, gritty, and infectious tune, “Blink and You'll Miss It” from their latest LP “As Is Now.” I dig this tune! It's a great way to begin an album and a concert. This song is like my glass of juice in the morning, it gets me going. As much as I dig this tune, I was a little distracted because the aforementioned group in front of me were talking. The vibe of the show was different from last night; thus,the beauty or detriment of catching more than one of an artist's shows.

Actually, Mark and his crew talked during the first three songs and I was getting to the point where I had had enough! I wanted to move from my decent location, but I was conflicted, I had an internal struggle. I hate giving someone else the power to make me do something that I am reluctant to do, but by being in these people's presence, I was not fully enjoying the show. I finally decided and said to myself, “Look, I've waited 5 years to see PW in concert and I'm not going to let some loud mouth drunk Brits ruin my experience! Life is too short to be miserable, especially for an event that should not be!” With this, I then moved to the back of the cordoned area to find 2 tall gaijin who were Mark's friends. They were talking a bit, but they did not seem to be too obnoxious. They sang along to some of the tunes and seemed more into the show than Mark.

My new location offered me even more room, which meant more groovin'. I stayed in this spot enjoying myself for about 5-6 songs, then, out of nowhere I heard this grating throaty British voice. I then looked to my left and I saw a figure draped on someone's back and to my dismay it was Mark. I thought I had gotten rid of him, but apparently not. I didn't feel like moving again, but I was prepared to do so. Mark was in the area for a couple of songs and then he slithered back to his friends.

The show was good, but not like last night's. There were too many pauses between songs, which took its toll on the pace and flow of the show. Last night, PW and the band ripped through their set, which was great because it didn't allow the crowd to collect its breath. Last night's show kept people in a constant groove and the energy flowing, which in turn energized the band. The effect was reciprocal. Tonight's show was not the case.

I stayed in my current location a little while longer until I saw Mark and his woman reappear with a few beers from the bar. They were chilling with the friends who were not that far from me. My immediate thought was, “Oh no!” and I bolted! I had been eyeing a spot by the far right corner of the stage. I worked my way through the crowd until I arrived at the area I coveted. There were quite a bit of men in this area and they all seemed rather reserved. The cat next to me was a tall lanky Japanese guy who sported a blue t-shirt with the circular tri color target mod logo emblazoned on it. We were close to the speakers, but fortunately the sound was good and not egregiously loud. I soon returned to my element of singing and groovin' to PW.

During periods in the show, some lone fan or fans would yell, not necessarily heckling, but often enthusiastic shouts of suggestions or encouragement. I could always hear Mark's voice during these lulls in the show. At one point in the show, either Mark or another fan enthusiastically suggested that PW play his classic Jam tune “That's Entertainment” Paul replied with an enthusiastic expletive. That Paul Weller can be a fiery fellow! After this exchange, not many people spoke as vocally during the brief lapses between songs.

Besides the crowd, some other changes from the second show were: PW put a new twist on his classic “You Do Something To Me” he played it on acoustic guitar. I had never seen him or heard him do this before. I had always heard or seen him perform it at him at the piano. Another change was Paul played one of my favorite Style Council (TSC) tunes “Long Hot Summer.” I had never seen him perform this song live and he performed this song on the piano. During the course of the show, Paul commented on how tonight's crowd was lovely just like last night's but he also said quickly and somewhat in jest, “Last night's crowd was better.” I wonder if he meant it in jest? For as funky as Whitey was last night, he seemed to play even better tonight! He was really into it! The crowd was appreciative of PW and the boys and into the show, but something still was lacking.

After a few more songs PW said, “Good night” and the crew walked off stage. The house lights remained dark and the crowd knew that an encore would ensue. The crowd urged Weller and company to the stage and they returned shortly thereafter. During the encore, PW played “A Town Called Malice” and the place went nuts! But tonight when Paul remained quiet during a stanza and the crowd just sang, the crowd wasn't as vocal as last evening. Anytime I can hear myself singing, that's not a good thing. 8-) Quick encore then the show ended. The band left the stage for awhile and the house lights did not come on. “Hmm, another encore, maybe,” I wondered? But, just when I thought the band would saunter to the stage, the house lights appeared. The crowd was deflated, but that's entertainment!

I met up with Christine as soon as the show concluded. She was 5 meters in front of me. I could see her moving and groovin' throughout the show. She gets into it and is very animated, she is fun to watch! As soon as we met up she said, “I think the show was short 2-3 songs.” She was right.

We then made a beeline for the stage. After last night's gig, we spoke with a roadie named Roger and she chatted him up a bit. Last night, I had asked him for a set list and he promised me one after tonight's gig. Roger was throwing out guitar picks to enthusiastic fans who were still lingering after the show. I playfully wrestled a petite, but strong Japanese women for a pick and she was tough. I let her have the pick. If I would have taken it, which I easily could have, I'm sure she would have fought me. I was thinking, “What's the point, it's only a guitar pick?”

At this point, Roger and I had established eye contact and he motioned for us to go to the side of the stage. Some muggs followed, but Roger made sure that he delivered the set list directly into our hands. Many people wanted to see the set list and of course I obliged. Just then, a tall handsome guy asked me if I had a set list and if he could see it. The guy reminded me of a guy I played ice hockey with back in Virginia, similar features. He said that he saw me at last night's show and we began talking. He had lived in Tokyo for the past 4 years; he is originally from Massachusetts and Canada and he plays ice hockey. The guy he reminded me of is from Massachusetts also. Anyway, the guy's name was Brian and he is a huge Weller fan. He got into PW when PW fronted The Style Council, the same time I found Paul Weller. Brian seemed like a really nice guy who thought last night's show was hot as well. The woman he was with, a very attractive Japanese woman embodied that comment. Christine, Brian, his significant other and myself met up outside in front of the venue, took pictures and Brian and I swapped business cards. He told me to give him a shout the next time I was in Tokyo, I will.

The show had ended, set lists were obtained, what was the plan for the evening? After Brian departed, Christine met up with Mikio, Hiro, and Herogumi. These are the cats who are friends with PW, know where he is staying in Tokyo, and met up with Steve Cradock last night and this morning at the hotel. Christine hung out with them last night and this morning and this is was how she met Steve and PW this morning. Christine said that she and Steve had a bond because they are from the same area in England.

Regarding the evening's plan, no one was saying much, but the plan was slowly unfolding, first, dinner.

At dinner, I got to know Mikio, Hiro, and Herogumi better. Apparentently, Hiro and PW are good friends. They have known one another for years and they write one another. When Paul comes to Tokyo, Hiro takes him shopping for clothes and vinyl records. Hiro is in the fashion business and he sends PW clothes. Hiro had many photos of he and PW at dinner with him, but there was one in particular that he kept in his wallet. He showed PW and Hiro together with PW's arm around Hiro and Paul had written on the photo, “To my main man Hiro, love PW.” It appeared that PW and Hiro had a genuine friendship; that was so cool. Hiro had been in the front row of everyone of PW's Tokyo shows, he'd been back to Paul's hotel every night for drinks since Paul's arrival and he was traveling to Osaka for Monday's show as well. Hiro and Mikio have exchanged and requested things of PW over the years, but they give as well. They always have gifts for PW and his children everytime they see one another, nice touch!

Dinner ended and the evening's game plan was finally revealed. We were going to head to the hotel bar that PW and his posse had visited nightly during their stay in Tokyo. PW always seems to wind down in the bar of the hotel where he is staying after a show. I was interested in meeting PW, but for whatever reason, just not right now. My plan for the evening was to get some hot chocolate (I love hot chocolate, made with milk!), venture back to my hotel, change, head to PW's hotel (Our hotels were pretty close to one another), and then go out for the evening. Saturday night in Tokyo is fun as I experienced back in November. However, before I knew it, I was like a lemming following the crowd.

Hiro and his entourage, took me on a different train back to the city for which I was grateful. One of the subway exits had a wall length advertisement/poster of PW, of which we got some good shots.

We changed trains and before I knew it, we were entering PW's hotel. We made our way to the 4th floor bar called, Trader Vics that had a cheesy Polynesian theme. The place was cavernous and it reminded me of an old rerun of Three's Company. I was expecting Mr. Roper to appear at any moment sporting a gaudy Hawaiian patterned shirt.

We arrived at the entrance to the restaurant/bar. The maitre'd looked up from what he is doing, saw that it was Hiro before him and immediately proceeded to whisk us to the back of the establishment. The staff apparently knew Hiro and they have the routine down. As we are ambling towards the back, I turned a corner and "Bam" before my eyes was the man, Paul Weller. I really didn't have time to be in shock because the chain of events happened so quickly. PW was before me chatting up a very striking Japanese woman. These two developments should not have surprised me. One, PW in a bar and two, he was chatting up an attractive woman. PW is quite the ladies man, my man! Hiro introduced me to PW and Paul and I shake hands. PW looked at me and said, “I saw you at last night's gig.” Now this did surprise me, I was floored that he would notice and remember me. But, I guess, I do tend to stand out, especially in Asia. I was 10 meters from the stage, I was the only Black person out of 3,000 people (Believe me, I do make note of these things), and I was little taller than most of the people in attendance.

PW was in a great mood this evening and we began chatting. I showed him a picture of my son Miles Weller. PW smiled and said, “I like his middle name.” I then asked, do you mind if I get a picture with you later?” He replied with a big smile, “Sure.” After his reply, I quickly vacated the scene. I didn't want to keep him, especially since he was getting his mack on.

After meeting with PW, our group was directed to an area in the rear of the restaurant that seemed to be the unofficial PW meeting area for the week. There were 6 people in our group and 4 people from another party waiting to meet and greet with PW. After PW said that he would do a photo with me, I immediately proceeded to gather the materials that I wanted him to sign (Latest cd cover and the set list from tonight's show) and my camera. I was about to head back to the bar when Hiro looked at me and put up the universal stop sign as if to say, “Whoa, tiger.” He looked at me and said, “Paul will come to us, trust me. He will do your photo; trust me. He will come back here.” Hiro was the voice of reason and I did trust him. A round of drinks were ordered and then about 15 minutes later PW casually entered our area of the restaurant. I quickly gathered my belongings and prepared to meet him. When he came to me I introduced myself and I asked Christine to take our photo. When I asked Christine to do the honors, I noticed a look of stress and tension on her face. It's like no pressure, eh. Christine, all I want you to do is take a great photo in one take of me and my favorite musician. Actually, Christine returned the favor when she asked me to do the same a couple of minutes later. And yes, I to was stressed! After Christine snapped a great photo of PW and I in one take, PW and I talked briefly. I told him something special went down at the previous evening's gig, but tonight's crowd was different. Paul concurred and replied, “Yeah, last night was on, it was special. Tonight's crowd was different.” I then asked him to sign my As Is Now (His latest album) cd cover and the set list and he obliged. He then asked me where I was from and then we talked about the US and my current home Thailand. PW was very polite and seemed to take an interest in what I had to say. For a cat who is a rock star, he had a great way of making one feel important in his/her own right. It is a great quality.

Next it was Christine's turn to take a picture with Paul and get some Weller memorabilia signed. Christine asked me to take a picture of her and Paul. I immediately began to feel the pressure that Christine felt when I asked her to take a photo of Paul and me. I was extremely nervous because I wanted to capture a good shot in one take. The pressure was one, but I produced, in one take. After photos were taken and memorabilia was signed, Paul worked the room and accommodated everyone who made a request of him. This was the 3rd or 4th time I had met Paul and I have always found him to be pleasant, gracious, and accommodating.

Paul remained in our section for about 20-30 minutes then he returned to the bar. Where he resumed chatting with a couple of attractive Japanese women. Hiro would return to the bar from time to time to speak with Paul as well. As the evening progressed, Damon Minchella and Steve White made their way to the bar. Paul's daughter Leah was at the bar as well. I didn't even notice her, Hiro pointed her out to me. I remember when Leah and her brother Nathaniel were born. Now her she was, a striking teenager accompanying her father on tour. I thought it was cool that Paul would bring his children to Japan with him.

We entered the bar between 9 and 9:30 P.M. and I told myself that I would depart at 11 P.M. So when the 11 o'clock hour approached, I bid everyone adieu. Christine was returning to Hong Kong tomorrow, therefore, this was the last time I was seeing her, maybe ever. We hugged, said, “Good-bye” and promised to keep in touch. I told Hiro, Herogumi, and Mikio that I would see them Monday night in Osaka. I thanked Hiro profusely for taking us to Trader Vics so that we had the opportunity to meet PW. Hiro replied in an ever so laid back tone, “It was my pleasure.

As I was leaving the bar, I had to pass by Paul who was still chatting up the same honey. I didn't want to disturb his groove, but I wanted to thank him and say, “Good-bye” in the coolest manner possible. On my way out, PW had his back to me so I tapped him gently on the arm and he turned around. I said, “Paul, I'm leaving.” I just wanted to say, “Thank you for the photo and that I will catch you in Osaka Monday night. He gave me the soul handshake (Y'know what I'm talking about) and he said, “Alright Boss.” while nodding his head. I left the bar/restaurant and went to the bathroom. In the bathroom, I had a huge grin on my face. I looked at the mirror and said to myself. I just saw PW, got a photo with him, and he called me, “Boss.” I was speechless. I then left the hotel and headed back to my hotel so that I could go out to enjoy my last night in Tokyo.

My last night found me in Shibuya, the world's busiest intersection. A million people are known to cross this intersection in an hour at certain times. It's a cool place to see especially at night when its illuminated by a neon glow. The area by the subway is a place to see and be seen. There are all kinds of street performers and people wearing particular fashions that could only be found in Tokyo. I was in search of a chicken shwarma from a Turkish guy in a white truck. I bought a chicken shwarma from him back in November when I was last here and it was tasty! The truck was gone and a gentleman of Middle Eastern descent appeared and sensed I was looking for a shwarma stand. He quickly instructed me to walk up the street and I would find it there. After a quick walk there it was. The shwarma was real tasty and I was pretty hungry. The Italian dinner I had with Hiro and the crew did not fill me up. After I purchased my shwarma, I needed to wash it down. I spotted a Starbucks and bought a hot chocolate that I had been craving all day. The Starbucks had an upstairs seating gallery that over looked Shibuya. I found a chair by a window and checked the scene from my perch. Shibuya seemed quiet from the last time I was there back in November. But there it was, on a Saturday night at 12:40 A.M. sharing with me what it had to offer.

End of Period 2

Tonight's Set List
Paper Smile
Out of the Sinking
Peacock Suit
All On A Misty Morning
Hung Up
From the Floorboards Up
Wild Blue Yonder
Up in Suze's Room
Porcelain Gods/ Walk On Gilded Spliters
Thinking of You
Roll Along Summer
You Do Something To Me
Here's The Good New
Long Hot Summer
C'Mon/Let's Go
Amongst Butterflies
Foot of the Mountain
Changing Man


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